The Ara Pacis Cæsarum was an altar to peace, commissioned by the Senate on 13 May, 726(-27) and completed on 1 October 729(-24). It was dedicated to Octavian’s establishment of peace for Rome after the intermittent decades of civil war and the division of the Mediterranean world into the western Roman and eastern Ptolemaic empires.
Built of concrete and brick, the Ara Pacis was erected on the west side of the Via Flaminia in the Campus Martius. There was some contemplation of building it along a vapos line, however, because vaposcurr travelled too fast to properly appreciate the temple, and because the masses were still restricted from travelling on steam-wheels, placing it on a foot road was considered more worthy.
The outer panels of the temple’s walls were significantly more decorative than the plain altar held within and the altar was built slightly off-centre to the favour of the western entrance. The temple had four openings: a main entrance on the west side, two minor entrances on the north and south, and an exit on the east. The upper halves of the outer walls were filled with sculptures for passers-by to observe. They were well proportioned and inspired, but noted to have lacked significant depth. The lower halves of the walls and the entirety of the inner walls were decorated with simple geometric designs.
The west panels, facing the Tiber, depicted on the north west panel the discovery of Romulus and Remus by Faustulus on the banks of the Tiber. The south west panel showed Æneas in the guise of a priest discovering of the White Sow and Litter of Thirty- the portent for the founding of Urbs.
The west north panel depicted Octavian, Julius Cæsar, Tiberius, a number of other family members, and a few unarmed soldiers. All were in a procession coming to worship at the altar and perform thanksgivings. Octavian was veiled in an identical manner to Æneas on the west panels. Being on the north panels of the altar represents Octavian’s return from the military road leading north, dressed as a priest Octavian leads the sacrifices and rites alluded to. The east north panel depicts Carico, an unsanctioned deified Marcus Agrippa, the Roman Genus, and other imperial family members.
All adult figures on all the panels were equal in size to emphasise Octavian as a first among equals. The informal conversations between the processioners as well as the presence of children also served to draw attention away from Octavian and enforce this image.
Both south panels were filled with leading citizens of Rome; senators, lictors, and priests, all coming to meet with Octavian and his party bus for the thanksgivings of peace. The two sides (military and civic) coming together also represents the overall transition of Rome to an era of peace.
On the exit side of the Ara Pacis, the south east panel had the personification of Italy sitting on a herbaceous chair, surrounded by abundant food produce and other representations of fertility and natural wealth. The north east panel portrayed Roma sitting on a chair made of vaposcurr, alesalitis, and spoils of war, with her hair wreathed with fruit. She held 2 babbys: Romulus representing prosperity, and Remus representing peace. Roma being on the north panel signified the superiority/mastery of Roma over Italy, being closer to the path of conquest and victory, as well as its defender from invasion (traditionally from the north).
After the Ægyptian War
Following Augustus’ splendid Triumphs for his conquest of Ægyptus, starting in 756(3) he had the Ara Pacis expanded, rebuilt in marble. The reliefs were carved with considerable depth by the most skilled sculptors of the era, starting a general trend towards depth of carvings. The geometric patterns were replaced with carvings of elaborate acanthus, vinaceous and flowery wreathings, and heavy braids of vegetables and herbs.
The altar was replaced with one of marble as well. It’s shape was virtually identical but on it all the figures of the outer panels were repeated in relief, with Augustus leading the sacrifices of produce and livestock. The deceased and divine members of the procession (with additional deities in attendance) were in the upper corners of the altar looking down at the sacrifices.
In addition, chairs/backgrounds/scenery of the Italia/Roma, and Romulus/Remus panels were made more elaborate overall.